Monday, March 17, 2008

On being joyful

Robroy made a comment about this blog on Stand Firm: "I love Dean Munday. If you read his blog regularly, one can tell that despite all the troubles and travails, he remains joyful."

Thank you, Robroy, for your kind words. As the title, "To All the World," and the tag line from Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation," indicate, I started this blog to deal with the mission of the Church in the world. Occasionally, the purpose of this blog has been overshadowed by events in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. Those interruptions have not been entirely off-topic, since these developments have an effect on the mission of the Church in the world. For instance, consider this news from last week, "815 Ends Missionary Stipends, Travel Reimbursement." Matt Kennedy, writing on the Stand Firm blog, rightly characterized this development in his title, "All is Well™…or…"Let’s Cut back on Outreach so we Can File More Lawsuits." I couldn't have said it better myself.

In the midst of the turmoil last week over the deposition of Bps. John David Schofield and William J. Cox and the threatened deposition of Bishop Robert Duncan, the news could have been overlooked regarding the Presiding Litigator's intention to depose Bishop Edward MacBurney. I wrote these words to the House of Bishops/House of Deputies listserv in response to another Deputy who said that he believed the words of the PB calling for compassion toward Bps. Cox and Schofield were sincere:
You wrote, "I believe that the call of our Presiding Bishop to be compassionate toward these two bishops is genuine..." Let me state emphatically that I do not believe this to be the case. Bishop Cox had already been received into another province. He should have been spared this action. The PB was informed that Betty Cox is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and that the action against Bishop Cox was causing her severe mental distress. The PB was informed of this publicly by Kendall Harmon at the clergy day during her trip to the Diocese of South Carolina. [You can watch the video of Kendall Harmon speaking to the Presiding Bishop about Bishop Cox here. It is approximately 7:00 minutes into Part 5 of the series.] Bishop Cox has said that the PB never contacted him except for the letters pertaining to his deposition. If she did not show compassion toward Bishop Cox prior to his deposition, what reason is there to believe that she will do so now?

Today [3/13/08] it became public that charges are being brought against the Rt. Rev. Edward MacBurney for his visit to a non-Episcopal church in San Diego. (Bishop MacBurney is the bishop who ordained me to the diaconate and priesthood.) The Diocese of Quincy informed 815 some time ago that the MacBurneys are dealing with a son who is in hospice care with terminal cancer. If the PB wanted to demonstrate compassion, she could have waited until later to deal with this (if it had to be done at all).

What is going on right now is a cold, calculated show of force; and no amount of dressing it up with language about compassion is going to change that reality. Those who for decades spoke of tolerance, compassion, and inclusion are now running the Episcopal Church; and it is turning out just like George Orwell's Animal Farm.

I didn't sound very joyful when I wrote those words, though, in a very real sense, I still have joy, even when I contemplate all that is going on in the Episcopal Church right now.

Imagine what will happen when, as a result of depositions, there are about a dozen "former Episcopal" bishops in the United States. I predict that, if this keeps up, there are a number of retired bishops (who I could name, but won't) who will be moved to throw in their lot and join the bishops who are being deposed. I think it will have the effect of bringing into existence precisely the alternative Anglican jurisdiction in the United States the Presiding Bishop would like to avoid. There is a term for this: It is known as "the Law of Unintended Consequences."

The Law of Unintended Consequences states that the unintended consequences of an action will overwhelm the intended ones. That part of the Church's history that is summed up by the famous adage, "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church" is a prime example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Why does that happen? Why does persecution bring about the very thing the persecutors are seeking to destroy? Because there lives in every true Christian a joy that cannot be overwhelmed by circumstances, that sees in those circumstances the predicted opposition of "the world" to God's truth and God's people, and that knows that, whatever may befall us, God reigns and God will triumph!

Remember Jesus' words, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).

In the midst of the crisis in Anglicanism right now, on January 21, 2008, I began another blog: Anglican Revivalist. Just as this blog, To All the World, was started to promote world missions, Anglican Revivalist was started to concentrate on those resources that will promote revival in the Church.

Regarding the beginnings of an alternative Anglican presence in North America, I, along with many others, have tried to advise various Episcopal leaders to follow the advice given by Gamaliel, regarding the early Christians, in Acts 5:38-39, "'For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.'" They haven't listened.

Persecution cannot stop the Church. The immorality, heresy, and apostasy of those who do not really know Christ cannot stop the Church. Only sin, lethargy, discouragement, and unfaithfulness in the lives of God's people can retard the mission of the Church. That is why revival through the power of God's Holy Spirit is the essential, continual need of the Church.

What was the response of the Apostles after the outcome of their trial (in which Gamaliel had spoken)? "The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 5:41-42).

And so it should be with us.

 

1 comment:

Rick said...

I believe you are on to something here. You might also consider the unexpected result (on the part of the recipient)of heapint burning coals referred to in Rom 12:20. Sweet.